dgenerate 's blog
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Be warned, I do not excel with the words, but I'll do my best. I have favorites, but I try and keep an open, unbiased mind. Just because I love my XBox, doesn't mean I hate my PS3. Also just because I love my shiny new current-gen games, doesn't mean I can't appreciate old games with technically inferior graphics.

About me
Name: Mike
Residence: Burlington, Ontario

Cry Liquor and Bleed Pixels

Current Console: XBox 360
Old Console: Nintendo NES
Games: Chrono Trigger
Gears of War
Guitar Hero
Mega Man
Drink: Wiser's Rye Whisky
Rye + Coke
Cranberry Vodka + 7up
Jose Cuervo
Cherry Bomb (1 part fireball, 1 part cherry brandy)
Book: JPod
Music I Am Ghost
Bleed The Dream
Creatures of Habit
The Matches

I love current-gen, but I will never abandon my roots.
8-bit for life, baby!

Here is my rating scale:
5: Must Try
4: Delicious
3: Mediocre to the Max
2: Kind of Shitty
1: Why does this exist?

To see what games I own, what I'm currently playing, or what I've recently completed:
Check out my MobyGames profile

Following (8)  

So I'm sure all of you have heard about Jack Thompson, and I'm sure at least a few of you have heard about his 'sting' operations. If you haven't the idea is that he is sending his 15 year old son into stores to buy M-rated games. I'm assuming that he is doing this to prove that stores don't and will not ID customers buying games, and therefore the system does not work and video games should all be burned in the streets.

Well, I went into Best Buy last night and happened to see a copy of God Hand for $25. I have heard about how unique and challenging it was, which means I will likely love it. So we browsed a bit and when we were ready to leave I went up to the cash to pay for my new game. There's an older lady at the counter, she asked me if I found everything ok then scanned my game, and this is what followed:

Cashier: "Are you 17?"

Me: (thinking she was joking) "Yeah"

Cashier: "I'm sorry but I can't sell you this game unless you're 17 years old"

Me: (even more sure that she was joking) "Heh, yah don't worry I'm 23"

Cashier: "Do you have any ID on you? I'm sorry but you don't look 17"

I then proceeded to hand her my driver's license. She checked it, apologized, and sold me the game. I'm not knocking her, because honestly, she's just doing her job. I did think it was pretty hilarious getting carded at the age of 23 for a video game, though.

So anyways, back to the main point. I feel like people will read about JT's 'sting' operations and think that no retailers enforce the age restrictions based on the game's ratings. I figured I would post this to demonstrate that just because you managed to get your kid to buy an M-Rated game, it doesn't mean no one is enforcing anything. (even though I know I will not reach that group of people from here)

Videos don't play where I work, so I randomly picked one from Gametrailers :S

Well, I somehow completely missed this title, and I noticed that it is being released next month! I'm a little apprehensive to get excited about a game I have heard so little about so close to it's release date, but after reading up on it, I can't help but get a little excited. The game is hard to describe. It has the mechanics of an MMORPG, mixed with the speed of an FPS. Picture WoWs Battlegrounds and Arenas, on speed, then mix in some Unreal Tournament.

Everything in this game was designed around the idea of PVP. There is no huge world to go questing about, collecting items and experience. Instead, you level up to the maximum level (10) by participating in PVP matches. Experience, gold and items are won through PVP matches, even the 'questing' is done during a match. There is a sanctuary, which you can think of as a town. This is where you can interact with other players and NPCs between rounds, buy and sell items, work on your character builds etc. . .

Something neat that they will be doing is working to create competition between servers. You can practice against people on your own server, but if you want the rewards from battle, you will need to do some cross-server fighting. Rewards are given to the winning and losing team at the end of the match, so you won't have to feel like you are leaving empty handed if you lose. Also, they will be using a matchmaking system to try and pit people against equally matched enemies. Rewards will be given to the best players, guilds, and servers on a weekly, as well as seasonal basis, which should help further promote cross-server competition.

There are currently 4 different game modes, or "Warzones":

Two teams of 16 players - players must collect crystals from NPC creatures moving in the map and bring them to their base. The Enemy team can steal crystals from your base. The team that has most crystals after a certain amount of time wins.

A group vs. group situation, it is a team based version of the Bloodbath where two groups must fight each other to the last man.

This game has more in common with titles like Battlefield. Two teams of 32 face off in an epic control point capture mode. Requires team based strategic manoeuvres to conquer the enemy.

This is a free for all mode with thirty-two players in one arena. Kill more than anyone else and stand victorious at the end.

Next up: Incarnations. Basically this is a character build and item set. You can save up to 255 incarnations, and swap them out between matches. The game limits you to one character per account, but with the ability to save and swap builds at any point it shouldn't be an issue at all. The game also does not have strict 'classes'. If you want to be a healer, you can use your points on healing spells. Here is where the player development gets a bit deeper than usual; you can still add any of the other skills you want to, your selection isn't now limited because you chose 'class: Priest'. Basically, you define your class by choosing your skills, as opposed to defining your class and choosing from a subset of skills.

Business Model
Fury is 49.99, and will be completely free to play. There is an optional $10 monthly fee that will bump you up from 'Hero' to 'Immortal' status. Heroes and Immortals will not have any content-related differences. Every Hero and Immortal will be able to use all items, skills, powerups etc... Immortals simply get some perks. What kind of perks? Enough to make me consider paying the fee (and supporting the developper and future content)

Quick travel in the Sanctuaries and Schools

VoIP talk privileges

One additional Item Roll Slot

Extended “rested gold bonus”

Selling privileges on the Auction House

Priority log-in queuing

Entry into weekly and seasonal Ladders

Personal player battle statistics

In-game Customer Service access

Elite access to the test server to preview new content

In the future, additional features will be added for Immortals such as crafting, player housing, special Clan functionality and lots more.

And for the skimmer, here's a quick rundown of some features of Fury:
PvP combat focused - Every development decision focuses on providing players the ultimate in Player vs. Player experience.

Combat with the visceral thrill of an FPS game, and the strategy and depth of an RPG.

A robust matchmaking system that ensures players always fight opponents of equal skill and experience

Classless advancement system for ultimate flexibility - No more gimping your character or being constrained to a specific set of abilities. In Fury you don't choose a class - you define your own!

A game that provides instant action to catch your attention, and the meaningful depth to hold it.

Realm vs. Realm system with literally dozens of other Realms to fight against!

Ladders and tournaments for clans or solo players to prove their worth.

Over 400 abilities, each with 10 unlockable ranks providing near endless possibilities for character advancement and achievement.

No boring PvE grind - go straight into thrilling PvP combat against human-controlled opponents.

An MMO that you can actually achieve things in during your lunchtime.

Next-generation game built on Unreal Engine 3.

Challenge system for fighting with friends, groupmates or clans, for practice or bragging rights.

Final Thoughts
I used to play a lot of Arenas when I played WoW, and the strategic element was huge. The commitment, however, was equally huge. I had to spend so much time in-game, and I was also raiding at the time, and it was just too time-consuming. The mix of this playstyle, with the idea of timed matches, and a little bit of FPS style and speed is really cool. What is even more exciting is how it looks like it's incorporated a lot of neat things to add tons of depth to the game. At this point, I can only hope th game will turn out as good as it could.

As per my usual disclaimer, this is not comprehensive. I only talked about a few of the things I am excited about, and thought that maybe some other people that may have missed it might have their interest piqued.

Fury Preview: The First MMOPvP(OCMODSHOP)
Developer Friday: Fury Hands-on (IGN AU)
Fury Preview - E3 2007 (Ten Ton Hammer)
New impressions on this massive PVP online game. (1Up)

When I wrote Pt.1 to this series, I was talking about how games have evolved from small skill-based games with high scores to more story-driven games with lush worlds and believable characters. Today I will be discussing the difference between the difficulty of a game and the difficulty to complete a game.

What makes a game difficult?
In the early days, sometimes it was actually just bad programming or design that made games difficult. I'm sorry, but I honestly can't think of any examples. I will instead refer to Game Design Essentials: 20 Difficult Games. Here is an example of how bad game design can make a game difficult (not to mention frustrating). In The Adventures of Lolo, a puzzle game, a gameplay mechanic is never introduced to the player before it is needed. The move allowed a player to respawn an enemy to a new location, which would allow the player to continue to the next level.

"It's another example of a puzzle game cheating, when theoretically they should play fair and introduce all the essential elements before they become important. To perform the trick: use two shots to destroy a Snakey, or other shootable monster, then push a block over its original space. Most levels this causes the monster to die permanently when it regenerates, but on a few boards it will instead appear elsewhere, usually in a place it would be impossible to put it otherwise."

Not every hard game was a victim of poor design, however. So I go back to some of my favorite challenging games; when I think of what made Contra a difficult game, there are two things that stand out in my mind: reflexes and chaos. Enemies constantly spawned and charged across the screen, sometimes shooting at you along the way. You couldn't just jump a bullet without first checking your jumps trajectory, as well as your landing area. You couldn't just duck under the bullet either; you might get trampled by a newly spawned enemy right behind you. Then again, get the spread gun and you're golden. Probably a better example of this is the notoriously difficult Ikaruga. The amount of onscreen action that you have to pay attention to is enormous. There are hundreds of bullets flying across the screen (half of which can be absorbed, half of which will kill you. You can change your polarity at any point), and it is really distracting from the rest of the level. You need to be able to focus not only on the bullet placement and colour, but while you do this, you also have to watch out for the environment. Lose track of one or the other and you're toast. Oh, and don't forget to shoot ;)

Another thing that will affect the difficulty of a game is limiting the player's resources. Items, weapons, and time are a few things that come immediately to mind. The fewer resources a player has, the more trouble they will have. A situation where a player has an easy time sitting back and waiting for the right time to strike, picking off enemies one by one can be made much more difficult by simply adding (for example) a time constraint, or by limiting the weapons that can be used. While we're on the topic of limited resources, I feel like I need to say something about regenerating health in games. The mechanic that Halo introduced has invaded the FPS genre to the point that it has almost become standard. I personally love this mechanic and I don't think it makes a game easy by default. Just because you can regenerate health in Gears of War, it does not make you invincible. Rush an enemy on Insane difficulty and watch how fast you die.

My last point about what makes a game difficult, and somewhat of a sidenote, is probably the thing I've missed most in the current age of gaming. A well-designed boss battle. You don't seem to see too many of these around any more, but a good boss battle should contain multiple stages, and each stage should have a different 'trick' to figure out. It seems more and more that we are getting boss fights that are just suped-up enemies. (ps, please post your favorite boss battle in the comments if you have one)

What makes a game difficult to complete?

I'm going to use Adventure Island as my example here. It is a fairly basic platform game. You face very static enemies (always in the same location, generally stationary), and on a per-level basis it isn't overly complex, or even difficult. Add a bit of a twist to the game, and it's a bit harder: stay fed. In Adventure Island, as time goes by, your life slowly depletes. You need to collect fruit to stay healthy. This means that you are now racing through the levels to finish before you die.

Now, a couple very common elements that the game included, that make the game insanely difficult to beat:
No saves. Well, to be honest, this was fairly commonplace at the time. You have to play through the entire game to beat it. Once the power is off, you lose all progress, along with all high scores.

Limited Lives. Once again, fairly commonplace at the time, specifically for games with no saves. In Adventure Island, you start the game with 3 lives. Every 50,000 points will net you another life. This comes out to a little less than one extra life per world.

Limited Continues. Now, most games at least have one to three continues. Adventure Island, however, doesn't allow a single continue. You get your 3 lives at the start of the game, and when you have none left, the game is over. Better luck next time, friend.

So, once again we can see that video games have evolved quite a bit. Games were very short, and relied on the difficulty of the game to keep you playing. Modern games aren't all particularly easy, but overall they are much more easy to complete.

This article isn't intended as a comprehensive resource. The comments are there for a reason, if I missed something, or if you disagree with anything I've said (or if you agree), or even if you want to elaborate, feel free! I'm always open to civil discussion.

I hear plenty of people talking about how much easier games are these days. Is it true? Well, it's not really that simple of a question. Games have changed so much since they first popped up, it's hard to even compare their difficulty. I think there are many different topics and questions related to the change in difficulty of games.

How have games evolved?
What makes a game difficult?
The state of the video games industry
Casual vs. Hardcore (don't worry, what I mean here is accessibility, and it is tied in with the state of the industry)
Can a game be difficult, yet accessible?
Why aren't there any new retro games?
...maybe more will come to mind as I write

I may or may not come back and write about each of these topics, but for now I'm going to talk about how video games have evolved, and how that has affected the difficulty in games.

When video games first emerged, they were small, skill-based games. There was usually very few game mechanics, and each level simply added something to the same base 'level', whether it be more enemies, upgraded enemies, new movement patterns, 'environmental' obstacles, or any combination of these (and others). I'll use Tetris as example, simly because it's a pretty universally known game. The game barely changes at all from when you first start at level 1. The only change that happens when you get to the next level, from a gamelpay perspective, is that the blocks now fall faster. Often times, games didn't even have an 'end', theu just kept getting harder. The whole point of these games wasn't to 'beat the game' or to play through the story, it was simply to get the highest score you could, and if you were really good, to get on the high scores list.

If you look back at early games, if they even had a backstory it was generally one or two sentences long, just to give the player some sort of context. A shift seemed to take place during the 8-bit era, fewer and fewer games had a score, and more and more games started to take on a more modern approach: You play as the protagonist in a story, and have to fight your way to the final boss to beat the game. As technology improved, video games became more and more viable as a form of storytelling then they had ever been. Today, with the power of the XBox 360 and the PS3, developers are able to create huge, immersive worlds, with lifelike characters. This really allows us a much more in-depth and immersive, and sometimes even emotional experience. Games like Half-Life and Bioshock really set the bar in this regard.

So now we aren't aiming for scores, we want to play through a story and that's all well and good. But just because a game is story-based, it doesn't necessarily mean it must be easy, right? No, it doesn't have to be. This discussion leads to even more questions and topics, specifically accessibility in games, and the state of the video games industry. Will I come back and write about that on another day? Maybe, maybe not. You'll have to wait and see.

Whether you agree or disagree, or have something extra to add that I have completely overlooked, leave a comment!

I have been making an effort to gather games from the last generation that I never got a chance to experience. You know, the games that stand out in peoples minds as truly amazing games. So I decided I would enlist the Dtoid Army to help my cause. I don't know about every game ever made, so let me know what games I (or anyone else) should make a point not to miss. Feel free to include a game for any reason; from pure fun, to amazing story, to beautiful style. I'll start by listing a couple.

Okami (PS2)
Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)
Killer7 (GC, PS2)
Ninja Gaiden (Xbox)
Metroid Prime (GC)
Viewtiful Joe (GC, PS2)
Eternal Darkness (GC)
Beyond Good & Evil (PC, GC, XBox, PS2)
Psychonauts (PS2, XBox)
Indigo Prophecy aka Fahrenheit (PS2, XBox, PC)
Skies of Arcadia (*Legends) (DC, *GC)
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (XBox)

I just skipped out of work for a few minutes and grabbed my copy of BioShock. Good thing I pre-ordered, because not only was the Limited Edition pre-sold-out, so was the regular copy. I put in my pre-order on Friday for the Limited Edition, just in hopes of actually getting one, and lucky me, I did! My copy is still sealed, so I'm just going to go with what's on the rather large box. Included are:

6" Big Daddy Figurine
Behind the Scenes DVD
Original Moby CD: The BioShock EP
Contest-winning cover art by Cult of Rapture Member Adam Meyer

The only gripe I have is that the game doesn't come in a tin. Still though, one of my favorite Limited Editions so far. (fuck that stupid Halo 3 helmet, but still <3 Halo)

Like I said, she's still sealed, so only box shots for you!

Welcome to Rapture!

Big Daddy wants to screw you

So... should I keep this thing sealed and play my roommates copy? But then I can't put a Big Daddy on my desk :(

Oh noes, life is hard.